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When it comes to recovery, pro athletes and celebrities like Tom Brady and Joe Rogan are all big fans of floating in a tank of nothingness. Officially they’re called sensory-deprivation tanks (aka isolation or float tanks). These oblong-shaped pods are filled with skin-temp water and thousands of pounds of Epsom salt, and they’re pitch-black when shut. They’re used to enhance visual performance, reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and increase circulation, according to Shane Stott, owner of Zen Float Co. and author of The Float Tank Cure. Stott reports, anecdotally, that it used to take ultramarathon runner Yassine Diboun, who regularly runs 50 to 100 miles, two weeks to recover from a race. But with floating, he now recovers in one week.
And studies back up most of the claims. Swedish research shows that stress, depression, anxiety, and pain were significantly lessened for floaters, while optimism and sleep quality significantly increased. Lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol were found in a 2004 study in the journal Psychology & Health. And a study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology showed that time in the tank was able to lower muscle tension.
As for drawbacks? “There’s no mental risk, although it seems a little scary at first,” Stott says. If you’re claustrophobic, he suggests leaving the tank door open at first.
Looking to buy your own tank? Here’s a few of the best on the market.
Made in the USA with high-quality components. From $8,900; escapepodtank.com
Fiberglass tanks that come with an ozone-filtration system. From $8,580; royalspa.com
It offers a rigid tank or a less expensive aluminum-framed inflatable tent. From $1,940; zenfloatco.com
Most cities have spots that offer float-tank services. They usually range between $50 and $100 per session, with package deals often available. For more information, check out the Floatation Tank Association at floatation.org. Or simply Google “float tanks near me.”